Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Scenes from the Life of an Irish Lass ~ Maureen O'Hara

This is my contribution to the Luck o' the Irish Blogathon hosted by Silver Scenes.


I've always felt that Maureen was an extremely talented...and under appreciated, actress.  True, she has scores of fans in the die-hard Old Hollywood world, but for a lot of people, they have never heard of her.  They've heard of Audrey Hepburn, Marilyn Monroe, Elizabeth Taylor....and don't get me wrong, they are all favorites of mine, but Maureen deserves a place too.

My hope is that with this article, I can have even one more person discover the extraordinary talent that is Maureen O'Hara.  I will give a brief biography of her life, thus far, and recommend my top 5 Maureen movies at the end.  And, perhaps best of all, I will share one of my favorite quotes that she detailed in her memoir 'Tis Herself.


She was born Maureen Fitzsimmons in 1920, to parents whom were both Irish.  Maureen caught the showbiz bug early, singing and performing with her siblings in her backyard.  She, however, was also very happy to stay in Ireland.  In the early years, she had no desire to go to Hollywood, or even America.

Her father, however, did not entirely support her enjoyment of theatrical things, and was determined that she enter in a more steady and supportive career.  But at the age of six, she was entered into a girls' school, where she studied acting, music, and dance, until the age of seventeen.  At the age of ten, while still enrolled in the girls' school, she joined an amateur theatre group, and rehearsed or performed after lessons.  Her dream was to become a stage actress.  But her father didn't give up, so she also entered a business school after she graduated, and became an extremely proficient typist.

Through her involvement with Abbey Theatre (courtesy again of the girls' school and the theatre group), Maureen received the opportunity of a screen test in London.  She wasn't satisfied with her performance, and thought "if this is the movies, I want nothing to do with them!". The part didn't come through for her either.  But later on, Charles Laughton came upon the screen test, and was very struck by her beauty and striking skills.  He shared his new discovery with colleague Erich Pommef, and she was given a contract with the two's company, Mayflower Pictures.  She did star in a few remembered movies while with that studio, but nothing particularly striking.  When World War Two broke out in England, and it was practically impossible to film any movies there, they sold her contract to RKO.  No profitable parts came for her there, either.....at least for a while.

Her big break came when she was chosen to act by John Ford in How Green Was My Valley.  Almost overnight, she was a huge success, and other good picture offers came rolling in.  And...well, you know how the rest goes.  She was particularly renowned for her extraordinary chemistry with John Wayne, and the two made five pictures together. (Contrary to popular belief, they were extremely good and close friends, but nothing more.)  I, personally, have always found it fascinating as to how actresses and actors had their background: how did they get started in pictures; did they enjoy it; what were their first parts?  And for that reason, this is exactly what I shared with you, my dear readers.


And now, the quote:

On Miracle on 34th Street:
"Everyone felt the magic on the set and we all knew we were creating something special.  I am very proud to have been part of a film that has been continually shown and loved all over the world for nearly sixty years.  Miracle on 34th Street has endured all this time because of the special relationship of the cast and crew, the uplifting story and its message of hope and love, which steals hearts all over the world every year.  I don't think I will ever tire of children asking me, "Are you the lady who knows Santa Claus?". I always answer, "Yes, I am.  What would you like me to tell him?"


Recommended Maureen movies (in no particular order):

Miracle on 34th Street - Also starring John Payne, Edmund Gwenn, Natalie Wood
Arguably one of Maureen's best known films.  It is now a Christmas standard, though it was originally released in May.

The Quiet Man - Also starring John Wayne, Barry Fitzgerald
Someone says 'Maureen O'Hara', and for many, this film comes to mind.  It is Maureen's and John Wayne's most famous pairing, one that has even created a fandom of itself: the 'Quiet Maniacs'. 

The Parent Trap - Also starring Hayley Mills, Brian Keith
A fun family film about two twins separated at birth who try to get their parents back together.

McClintock! - Also starring John Wayne, Yvonne De Carlo, Patrick Wayne, Stefanie Powers
This film allowed Maureen to showcase both her dramatic and comedic abilities.  She was an incredibly talented actress, one that I feel could assume almost any role.

Mr. Hobbs Takes a Vacation - Also starring Jimmy Stewart, Fabian
This is a completely comedic film, and though definitely not the best known in the history of movies, it's a fun watch for an afternoon.


I do sincerely hope you enjoyed this post on Miss Maureen O'Hara.  She is one of my favorite actresses, and I much enjoyed authoring this post about her. :-)

Ta-ta, dahlings!!



Phyl said...

Fantastic post and great list! The only one I haven't seen is the Mr. Hobbs one. I recorded it on my dvr but it got deleted :(

FYI "The Quiet Man" was just released on Blu-ray! And on the 24th a documentary called "John Ford: Dreaming The Quiet Man" is being put out by Olive Films.


Anonymous said...

Along with "Miracle on 34th Street" and "The Quiet Man", the other O'Hara film I would recommend is "Rio Grande". After "The Quiet Man", it's my favorite of the films O'Hara did with Wayne. Nice write-up.

The Metzinger Sisters said...

Great film picks! We would probably add "Against All Flags" to our faves list because she is just so spunky in that one ( as a pirate, of course ). Thanks for sharing this graaand post. I wonder how Charles Laughton came upon her failed screen-test? She must have performed better than she claimed because it was really bad I'm sure whoever filmed it would have just destroyed it instead of "canning" it. Regardless of how he stumbled upon it, thank you Mr. Laughton for doing so! What a fighting Irish spirit America would have missed without his find. One disagreement : I think her performances in Jamaica Inn and The Hunchback of Notre Dame were star-quality even if she wasn't labeled a "star" here in the states just yet.

Caftan Woman said...

A charming tribute. Maureen is also a lovely singer and the variety of her roles shows what an exceptional actress and career she had.


I also believe Maureen deserves to be more well-knonw! Such a lovely and talented lady :)
I screamed when hte Oscars showed a bit of her receiving her Honorary Award, it was so beautiful!
Loved that quote!
Don't forget to read my contribution to the blogathon! :)